Updated Mar 22, 2020 - Health

Germany bans public gatherings of more than 2 people

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 17, 2020.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo by John MacDougall/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The German government is banning public gatherings of more than two people to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, stopping just short of confining people to their homes Bloomberg reports.

Driving the news: Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after coming in contact with a doctor who tested positive for the virus.

Why it matters: Countries across Europe, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic, have imposed stringent social distancing measures in an effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading as it has in Italy, where more than 4,800 people have died. Merkel has thus far opposed a full lockdown.

  • Families and people who live together will be exempt from the rule, which will be enforced by German police. The agreement was struck after a meeting between Merkel, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the leaders of the 16 German states. 
  • The virus has infected almost 24,000 people in Germany and has claimed at least 92 lives, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The big picture: Like other countries around the world, Germany is adopting policies to abate the economic damage caused by the outbreak.

  • The government is on track to adopt fiscal measures worth up to €500 billion ($538 billion) to support its economy, which is Europe's largest, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Strict measures on public gatherings could exacerbate the economic damage caused by the virus but are necessary to prevent new infections.
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